Of A Different Mind

More on the personality thing.

There was a moment today when a thought occured to me, a thought that—upon reflection—I’ve had many times over the years, particularly in the workplace. It seems, much of the time, that I tend to operate on a completely different wavelength from most of those around me. It’s like there’s something I don’t “get” that everyone else around me does. At times, when people talk to me (like a former boss I mentioned in a previous post, who wanted me to show more “ownership”) even though they’re speaking english, it’s like they’re speaking another language that I don’t begin to understand; like I’m on some other frequency and I can’t tune into the one everyone else is on.

I’ve seen it register, too, on the faces of the people I interact with, when they begin to wonder if they’re getting through to me. Then they figure they aren’t getting through to me, and they wonder why. I’ve often joked about being a “Type B” in a world of “Type As”, but there really does seem to be some disconnect, some non-meeting of the minds between me and a lot of people. I guess it’s a matter of just being very different in our basic approaches to the world. And trying to translate and interpret between those two approaches is sometimes like trying to reach through a two-foot thick wall of gauze. Frustrating and eventually exhausting. And most of the time it seems like I’m the one who has to stretch to understand and translate into the frequency or wavelength of those around me, because the truth is—at least in this culture— I am, and people like me are, out-numbered.

It seems almost too simplistic to pare it down to “Type A, Type B, Type C” personality contiuum. Yet at the same time there seems to be something to it. I think being in D.C. and working in and around politics kind of underscores it for me, because I work in a city and in a field that tends to attract a lot of people who are driven and ambitious, and who have accomplished a lot because of their drive and ambition. Then there’s me. If I was drawn to live and work in a political city, it’s because I’m an idealist I want to make a diference, but I can honestly say I’ve never been terribly driven (except to distraction). Most of the time, much of what I do isn’t done with a sense of urgency. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever been amitious (maybe I was at some young age, but quickly lost that trait). I’ve always recoiled from competition. So maybe there is something to that whole personality type thing, even if it’s a little too pat to be the sole answer.

I chatted with the hubby about it this evening, as I often do when stuff like this occurs to me. Given that we’re very different people in many ways, I was interested in hearing his take on what I’d been pondering during the day. His take was that I do operate on a different wavelength than most other people, and that working in and around politics would make the difference more stark at times. Then, of course, he said if I’d been the highly ambitious, driven, competitive type, he probably wouldn’t have been initially attracted to me. So, what ever it is that makes me different, at least its something he loves about me. For my part, I don’t love or hate whatever it is that seems to make me different from the people around me. I guess I’m just beginning to understand it and trying to wrap my brain around it. Then there’s the business of trying to figure out where and how I fit into a culture that doesn’t seem to have an obvious place for me.

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One Response to Of A Different Mind

  1. Tim Who? says:

    You are correct, there are things you don’t get and the reality is you probably won’t ever get them, and that’s ok.

    As my left handed friend would say, everything was built for right handed people and I had to learn how to live in a right handed world. (He is correct)

    You live in a straight, white, aggressive, driven, ambitious, world where people are drawn to and motivated by power and money. Surprise, surprise, you don’t feel like you fit in. You don’t fit in because that’s not you, and it will never be you, so every attempt to try to “fit in” will only result in frustration. Others may say that my straight, white, remark is incorrect as people of color and gay people can and do become successful in the political arena and that’s true. But because they don’t fit the standard mold they have to work extra hard they have to be more driven, more ambitious just to even things out. If you don’t believe me, ask any woman holding a high political office.

    The sooner you stop trying to live their life and start living your life the better off you’ll be. Don’t worry about “getting it” accept that their life and your life are on two different playing fields. The only time it should come into play is employment and there will naturally be a few times where you don’t understand and you’ll need to ask them to rephrase for clarity or better yet, write it down for you so you can then take it home and sit and discuss it with your partner and come to an understanding of what is expected of you. (Could you outline that in an email?) (Or you could take very good notes?)
    If you find it happening over and over, again and again, at work then you’ll need to ask yourself if the position you’re in is the right one for you?

    As I read your post I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never did. You wrote.

    “And trying to translate and interpret between those two approaches is sometimes like trying to reach through a two-foot thick wall of gauze. Frustrating and eventually exhausting. And most of the time it seems like I’m the one who has to stretch to understand and translate into the frequency or wavelength of those around me”

    I agree 100% and the two-foot wall of gauze is a great analogy. But you’re forgetting that it takes two to communicate. And in every break down of communication two people are not “getting it”.

    You know they live in a different world. You know the wall is there. Do they? Do they understand you live in a different world? Do they try to reach through that wall? Do they care? I think you’ll find that they are completely oblivious to your struggles. It’s not that they wish you ill will. It’s just that they are so blinded by their own ambitiousness and can’t see anything or anyone else.

    I’ve lived in their world, and the best move I ever made was to quit trying to live their life and start living my life. The peace and happiness I’ve found they will never see.

    It is not you that “doesn’t get it” you understand it all too well.

    It is they, that don’t, or can’t understand you.

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